Year In Review: Rajan Lakhani's Top Ten Albums Of 2017

on Friday, January 12, 2018
Words: Rajan Lakhani

Following up my top tracks of 2017 comes a list of my favourite ten albums of the past year, including promising newcomers and returning giants. The YouTube playlist below will also handily take you through a song from each record.


10) Bedouine - 'Bedouine'

Bedouine is a superb debut record from Azniv Korkejian that beguiles listeners. It has a sublime, country-folk sound, and what’s most impressive for me is how every song complements each other, creating something that’s a singular artistic statement which is more than the sum of its parts.

9) The Big Moon - 'Love In The 4th Dimension'

Except for a brief intermission from Royal Blood, new British guitar-based bands are struggling - only a handful of albums in NME’s top 50 albums from the year are guitar-based and the magazine itself has been forced to branch out far beyond indie bands. But bands like Creeper and The Big Moon are doing their best to keep the flame alive, both delivering splendid debuts. This album just sneaks in ahead of Creeper, combining influences such as Elastica, Pixies and Arctic Monkeys to create a series of anthems.

8) Real Estate - 'In Mind'

Losing your lead guitarist (Matt Mondanile, otherwise known as Ducktails) leads many bands to call it a day. Instead, Real Estate have delivered their best record, taking the opportunity to fine-tune their sound. While the woozy, spacey atmospherics are still present, the melodies are stronger and more memorable, marking a big step forward for the group.

7) The War On Drugs - 'A Deeper Understanding'

'A Deeper Understanding', the follow-up to the outstanding 'Lost In A Dream', doesn’t quite reach its heights but it’s a superb record in its own right. The hazy, inviting atmospherics and 80s influences (Dire Straits, Springsteen, Petty) remain, while frontman/songwriter Adam Granduciel continues to explore where his muse takes him, delivering an even more expansive record for listeners to explore and enjoy.

6) The Horrors - 'V'

I’m not quite sure why this album didn’t make a bigger impact commercially last year. The band’s most realised album yet, and it was met with some of their best ever reviews. Perhaps it’s a case of The Horrors being taken for granted given how consistent they’ve become. Since the brilliant volte-face of 'Primary Colours', they’ve produced intricate sonic atmospheres that you can’t help admire but 'V' is a much tighter affair and features Faris Badwan’s best vocals to date.

5) Protomartyr - 'Relatives In Descent'

Protomartyr are one of the most criminally underrated bands. They’ve delivered a series of excellent records, but perhaps their sinuoey, dark post-punk sound makes them difficult to embrace. There were a number of politically charged albums released in light of Trump’s election and Brexit but 'Relatives In Descent' stands out. Given the lofty themes it addresses such as modern life, globalisation and ageing, the music has got to be strong enough to carry them and Protomartyr certainly succeed.

4) Aimee Mann - 'Mental Illness'

'Mental Illness' is a lovely album from a master songwriter. Stripping back to mainly just acoustic guitars, Mann manages to make what she calls her saddest album to date life-affirming and soothing. That’s largely thanks to the beautiful melodies that feature in every song. A lovely record to simply get lost in.

3) The National - 'Sleep Well Beast'

'Sleep Well Beast' is another excellent addition to The National’s already outstanding back catalogue. The National are not a party band by any means, and the record explores mid-life angst and a breakdown of a relationship. However, the detailed arrangements do justice to the dramatic weight of the issues. But before you reach for the White Lightning, there is a charm to the whole record and shimmers of light amidst the darkness.

2) Father John Misty - 'Pure Comedy'

Josh Tillman is a divisive musician. Ahead of the release of the album, he wrote “bizarre and sophisticated ironies are designed to help cope with [humans’] loathsome vulnerability and to try and reconcile how disproportionate their imagination is to the monotony of their existence”. Not exactly crowd-pleasing stuff. He’s not afraid to give his opinion, and that honestly comes through on this record. In a year that also saw a release from his previous band Fleet Foxes, 'Pure Comedy' is the standout album. Comparisons to Neil Young and Elton John are not hyperbole, 'Pure Comedy' is an elegant, lush and ambitious record that is truly affecting.

1) LCD Soundsystem - 'American Dream'

When LCD Soundsystem reversed their 2011 decision to call it day, I was quite cynical about their motives, especially given they had cashed in considerably on their farewell. But all that cynicism quickly seeps away from the very first track of 'American Dream'. Recalling the peak of 'Sound Of Silver', this record is James Murphy opening up and settling scores while never forgetting the importance of a catchy beat. A dance album for grown-ups, there is not a single track which doesn’t deliver. A brilliant return.

Read more of Best Of 2017 features here.

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